And this, from the Statesman Journal: WOU nursing program shapes skills | StatesmanJournal.com | Statesman Journal

MONMOUTH According to the Oregon Center for Nursing, a steady growth in the demand for registered nurses indicates that the state will see an additional 15,700 RN job openings during the next decade and a half.

That's good news for the 27 inaugural students at the Oregon Health & Science University nursing program at Western Oregon University.

The group of students took part in an open house recently in the new nursing facilities, dressed in scrubs as visitors including state officials and curious locals got a look at the fledgling school.

The nursing program is OHSU's, while core courses come through WOU in the bachelor's program. The mix can be tricky, but school officials are so far pleased with the smooth transition.

"It turned out that everybody, all the various levels from both universities, worked together," said Mike LeMaster, a WOU biology professor involved with the core curriculum. "You never have a perfectly smooth transition, but I think the bumps we've had are minor."

Despite the marketplace demand, entrance to nursing school is fiercely competitive.

WOU Dean of Arts and Sciences Stephen Scheck said there are 140 to 160 pre-nursing students enrolled at Western, and he expects that number to swell to 200 by next year.

This year's initial group of students is an eclectic lot selected from 140 applicants. Some already have bachelor's degrees in other disciplines, and all students enter with a grade-point average above 3.8.

The program aims to shape their training around their specific interests, such as pediatrics, geriatrics or rural nursing, among others.

Rural nursing is an area of especially high demand, and the duties are more varied. According to the Oregon Office of Rural Health, half of the state's 58 hospitals are designated as rural hospitals, and there are an additional 56 rural clinics statewide.

LeMaster noted WOU's location as especially suitable for rural health training because of available nearby rural facilities for hands-on clinical applications.

As an example of interest-specific education and training, Scheck pointed out that training in rural care could enhance courses from anthropology or sociology to broaden a student's understanding of civilization and cultural issues.

"It's more of a case of exposing students to some of these types of issues to make them more cognizant of them," Scheck said, citing issues of indigenous people or the growing Latino population in many rural areas.

"This type of curriculum would empower that individual to be much more aware and prepared."

One of the biggest hurdles in meeting the growing demand for nurses is meeting the concurrent demand for nursing educators.

Scheck said nursing educators primarily are former nurses who have earned a master's degree.

"We are still actively recruiting nursing instructors," Scheck said.